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Oscar Wilde Quotes

100+ of the best book quotes from Oscar Wilde
01
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“You know how a voice can stir one. Your voice and the voice of Sibyl Vane are two things that I shall never forget. When I close my eyes, I hear them, and each of them says something different. I don’t know which to follow.”
Oscar Wilde
author
The Picture of Dorian Gray
book
Sibyl Vane
Lord Henry Wotton
Dorian Gray
characters
evil
goodness
concepts
02
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“Yes, he was certainly wonderfully handsome, with his finely curved scarlet lips, his frank blue eyes, his crisp gold hair. There was something in his face that made one trust him at once. All the candour of youth was there, as well as all youth’s passionate purity. One felt that he had kept himself unspotted from the world. No wonder Basil Hallward worshipped him.”
03
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“And beauty is a form of genius -- is higher, indeed, than genius, as it needs no explanation. It is of the great facts of the world, like sunlight, or spring-time, or the reflection in dark waters of that silver shell we call the moon. It cannot be questioned. It has its divine right of sovereignty. It makes princes of those who have it. You smile? Ah! when you have lost it you won’t smile...”
04
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“People say sometimes that beauty is only superficial. That may be so, but at least it is not so superficial as thought is. To me, beauty is the wonder of wonders. It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.”
05
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“Ah! realize your youth while you have it. Don’t squander the gold of your days, listening to the tedious, trying to improve the hopeless failure, or giving away your life to the ignorant, the common, and the vulgar. These are the sickly aims, the false ideals, of our age. Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing. . . . A new Hedonism -- that is what our century wants. You might be its visible symbol.”
06
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“I am jealous of everything whose beauty does not die. I am jealous of the portrait you have painted of me. Why should it keep what I must lose? Every moment that passes takes something from me and gives something to it. Oh, if it were only the other way! If the picture could change, and I could be always what I am now! Why did you paint it? It will mock me some day -- mock me horribly!”
07
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“If I had read all this in a book, Harry, I think I would have wept over it. Somehow, now that it has happened actually, and to me, it seems far too wonderful for tears.”
08
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“I believe that if one man were to live out his life fully and completely, were to give form to every feeling, expression to every thought, reality to every dream -- I believe that the world would gain such a fresh impulse of joy that we would forget all the maladies of mediaevalism, and return to the Hellenic ideal -- to something finer, richer than the Hellenic ideal, it may be.”
09
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“We live in an age that reads too much to be wise, and that thinks too much to be beautiful.”
10
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“An artist should create beautiful things, but should put nothing of his own life into them. We live in an age when men treat art as if it were meant to be a form of autobiography. We have lost the abstract sense of beauty.”
11
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“It was his beauty that had ruined him, his beauty and the youth that he had prayed for. But for those two things, his life might have been free from stain. His beauty had been to him but a mask, his youth but a mockery. What was youth at best? A green, an unripe time, a time of shallow moods, and sickly thoughts. Why had he worn its livery? Youth had spoiled him.”
12
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“The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.”
13
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“Sibyl? Oh, she was so shy and so gentle. There is something of a child about her. Her eyes opened wide in exquisite wonder when I told her what I thought of her performance, and she seemed quite unconscious of her power.”
14
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″‘Each of us has heaven and hell in him, Basil,’ cried Dorian with a wild gesture of despair.”
15
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“He was prisoned in thought. Memory, like a horrible malady, was eating his soul away.”
16
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“I make a great difference between people. I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects. A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies. I have not got one who is a fool. They are all men of some intellectual power, and consequently they all appreciate me. Is that very vain of me? I think it is rather vain.”
17
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“How much that strange confession explained to him! The painter’s absurd fits of jealousy, his wild devotion, his extravagant panegyrics, his curious reticences -- he understood them all now, and he felt sorry. There seemed to him to be something tragic in a friendship so coloured by romance.”
18
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“Yes, we are overcharged for everything nowadays. I should fancy that the real tragedy of the poor is that they can afford nothing but self-denial. Beautiful sins, like beautiful things, are the privilege of the rich.”
19
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“To be good is to be in harmony with one’s self.”
20
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“Then the curtain rises, and you will see the girl to whom I am going to give all my life, to whom I have given everything that is good in me.”
21
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“The past could always be annihilated. Regret, denial, or forgetfulness could do that. But the future was inevitable. There were passions in him that would find their terrible outlet, dreams that would make the shadow of their evil real.”
22
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“Dorian Gray had been poisoned by a book. There were moments when he looked on evil simply as a mode through which he could realize his conception of the beautiful.”
23
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“Life has everything in store for you, Dorian. There is nothing that you, with your extraordinary good looks, will not be able to do.”
24
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“Modern morality consists in accepting the standard of one’s age. I consider that for any man of culture to accept the standard of his age is a form of the grossest immorality.”
25
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“For the canons of good society are, or should be, the same as the canons of art. Form is absolutely essential to it. It should have the dignity of a ceremony, as well as its unreality, and should combine the insincere character of a romantic play with the wit and beauty that make such plays delightful to us. Is insincerity such a terrible thing? I think not. It is merely a method by which we can multiply our personalities.”
26
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“The reason I will not exhibit this picture is that I am afraid that I have shown in it the secret of my own soul.”
27
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“Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.”
28
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“If I am occasionally a little over-dressed, I make up for it by being always immensely over-educated.”
29
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“I really don’t see what is so romantic about proposing. One may be accepted - one usually is, I believe - and then the excitement is ended. The very essence of romance is uncertainty.”
30
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“In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity is the vital thing.”
31
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“I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone.”
32
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“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That is his.”
33
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“The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.”
34
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“The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!”
35
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“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”
36
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“I am sick to death of cleverness. Everybody is clever nowadays.”
37
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“I have never met any really wicked person before. I feel rather frightened. I am so afraid he will look just like every one else.”
38
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“Long engagements give people the opportunity of finding out each other’s character before marriage, which is never advisable.”
39
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“To be born, or at any rate bred, in a hand-bag, whether it had handles or not, seems to me to display a contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life that reminds one of the worst excesses of the French Revolution.”
40
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“I never change, except in my affections.”
41
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“And you do not seem to realize, dear Doctor, that by persistently remaining single, a man converts himself into a permanent public temptation. Men should be more careful; this very celibacy leads weaker vessels astray.”
42
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“Thirty-five is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years.”
43
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“You can hardly imagine that I and Lord Bracknell would dream of allowing our only daughter - a girl brought up with the utmost care - to marry into a cloak-room, and form an alliance with a parcel?”
44
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“I do not know whether there is anything peculiarly exciting in the air of this particular part of Hertfordshire, but the number of engagements that go on seems to me considerably above the proper average that statistics have laid down for our guidance.”
45
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“What seem to us a bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.”
46
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“Ah, I forgot, your husband is an exception. Mine is the general rule, and nothing ages a woman so rapidly as having married the general rule.”
47
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“How you women war against each other!”
48
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“I would to God that I had been able to tell the truth . . . to live the truth. Ah! that is the great thing in life, to live the truth.”
49
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“Oh, damn sympathy. There is a great deal too much of that sort of thing going on nowadays.”
50
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“Ah, nowadays people marry as often as they can, don’t they? It is most fashionable.”
51
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“We have all feet of clay, women as well as men; but when we men love women, we love them knowing their weaknesses, their follies, their imperfections, love them all the more, it may be, for that reason.”
Sir Robert
character
love
men
women
concepts
52
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“Women are not meant to judge us, but to forgive us when we need forgiveness. Pardon, not punishment, is their mission.”
53
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“All sins, except a sin against itself, Love should forgive.”
54
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“Even you are not rich enough, Sir Robert, to buy back your past. No man is.”
55
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“My dear father, only people who look dull ever get into the House of Commons, and only people who are dull ever succeed there.”
56
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“Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike.”
57
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“I delight in talking politics. I talk them all day long. But I can’t bear listening to them.”
58
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“Circumstances should never alter principles!”
59
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“Ah! the strength of women comes from the fact that psychology cannot explain us. […] Science can never grapple with the irrational.”
60
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“I know, now, that when one loses one’s good looks, whatever they may be, one loses everything. Your picture has taught me that. Lord Henry Wotton is perfectly right. Youth is the only thing worth having. When I find that I am growing old, I shall kill myself.”
61
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“One should absorb the colour of life, but one should never remember its details. Details are always vulgar.”
62
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“You know we poor artists have to show ourselves in society from time to time, just to remind the public that we are not savages. With an evening coat and a white tie, as you told me once, anybody, even a stock-broker, can gain a reputation for being civilized.”
63
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“I like persons better than principles, and I like persons with no principles better than anything else in the world.”
64
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“You are a wonderful creation. You know more than you think you know, just as you know less than you want to know.”
65
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“Lord Henry went out to the garden and found Dorian Gray burying his face in the great cool lilac-blossoms, feverishly drinking in their perfume as if it had been wine. He came close to him and put his hand upon his shoulder. ‘You are quite right to do that,’ he murmured. ‘Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.‘”
66
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“I love Sibyl Vane. I want to place her on a pedestal of gold and to see the world worship the woman who is mine. What is marriage? An irrevocable vow. You mock at it for that. Ah! don’t mock. It is an irrevocable vow that I want to take. Her trust makes me faithful, her belief makes me good. When I am with her, I regret all that you have taught me. I become different from what you have known me to be. I am changed, and the mere touch of Sibyl Vane’s hand makes me forget you and all your wrong, fascinating, poisonous, delightful theories.”
67
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“Pleasure is Nature’s test, her sign of approval. When we are happy, we are always good, but when we are good, we are not always happy.”
68
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“The very essence of romance is uncertainty.”
69
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“Never speak disrespectfully of Society, Algernon. Only people who can’t get into it do that.”
70
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“I’ve now realized for the first time in my life the vital Importance of Being Earnest.”
71
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“To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”
72
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“It is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth.”
73
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“I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being good all the time. That would be hypocrisy.”
74
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“Oh! it is absurd to have a hard-and-fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn’t. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn’t read.”
75
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“Besides, Gertrude, public and private life are different things. They have different laws, and move on different lines.”
76
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“Sooner or later in political life one has to compromise. Every one does.”
77
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“You can forget. Men easily forget. And I forgive. That is how women help the world. I see that now.”
78
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“She loves you, Robert. Why should she not forgive?”
79
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“Politics are my only pleasure.”
80
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“No one should be entirely judged by their past.”
81
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“I will love you always, because you will always be worthy of love.”
82
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“It is the growth of the moral sense in women that makes marriage such a hopeless, one-sided institution.”
83
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“Well, I delight in your bad qualities. I wouldn’t have you part with one of them.”
84
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“It is not the perfect, but the imperfect, who have need of love.”
85
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“Nowadays, with our modern mania for morality, every one has to pose as a paragon of purity, incorruptibility, and all the other seven deadly virtues – and what is the result? You all go over like ninepins - one after the other.”
86
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“Lady Chiltern is a woman of the very highest principles, I am glad to say. I am a little too old now, myself, to trouble about setting a good example, but I always admire people who do.”
87
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“It is power to do good that is fine – that, and that only.”
88
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“But women who have common sense are so curiously plain, father, aren’t they?”
89
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″ ‘They mean,’ he said sadly, ′ that you must weep with me for my sins, because I have no tears, and pray with me for my soul, because I have no faith, and then, if you have always been sweet, and good, and gentle, the angel of death will have mercy on me.′ ”
90
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“On reaching a small secret chamber in the left wing, he leaned up against a moonbeam to recover his breath, and began to try and realize his position. Never, in a brilliant and uninterrupted career of three hundred years, had he been so grossly insulted.”
91
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“Yes, death. Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no to-morrow. To forget time, to forget life, to be at peace. You can help me. You can open for me the portals of death’s house, for love is always with you, and love is stronger than death is.”
92
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“Virginia stepped forward, and laid on it a large cross made of white and pink almond-blossoms. As she did so, the moon came out from behind a cloud, and flooded with its silent silver the little churchyard, and from the distant copse a nightingale began to sing.”
93
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“It was his solemn duty to appear in the corridor once a week, and to gibber from the large oriel window on the first and third Wednesdays in every month, and he did not see how he could honourably escape from his obligations. It is quite true that his life had been very evil, but, upon the other hand, he was most conscientious in all things connected with the supernatural.”
94
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“The eyes of the Happy Prince were filled with tears, and tears were running down his golden cheeks. His face was so beautiful in the moonlight that the little swallow was filled with pity.”
95
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“Leaf after leaf of the fine gold he brought to the poor, and the children’s faces grew rosier, and they laughed and played games in the street.”
96
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“When a golden girl can win Prayer from out the lips of sin, When the barren almond bears, And a little child gives away its tears, Then shall all the house be still And peace comes to Canterville.”
97
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“He made me see what Life is, and what Death signifies, and why Love is stronger than both.”
98
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“We have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language.”
99
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“That’s quite absurd! You have merely to go to bed and blow out the candle. It is very difficult sometimes to keep awake, especially at church, but there is no difficulty at all about sleeping. Why, even babies know how to do that, and they are not very clever.”
100
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“Once in New York, you are sure to be a great success. I know lots of people here who would give a hundred thousand dollars to have a grandfather, and much more than that to have a family ghost.”
101
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“My courtiers called me the Happy Prince, and happy indeed I was, if pleasure be happiness. So I lived and so I died. ”
102
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″ ‘When I was alive and had a human heart,’ answered the statue, ‘I did not know what tears were, for I lived in the Palace of Sans-Souci, where sorrow is not allowed to enter.’ ”
103
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″ ‘Dear little swallow,’ said the Prince, ‘you tell me of marvelous things, but more marvelous than anything is the suffering of men and women. There is no mystery so great as Misery. Fly over my city, little swallow, and tell me what you see.’ ”
104
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“Dear Prince, I must leave you, but I will never forget you, and next spring I will bring you back two beautiful jewels in place of those you have given away.”
105
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″ ‘The ruby has fallen out of his sword, his eyes are gone, and he is golden no longer,’ said the Mayor in fact, ‘he is little better than a beggar.’ ”
106
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″ ‘I am covered with fine gold,’ said the Prince, ‘you must take it off, leaf by leaf, and give it to my poor; the living always think that gold can make them happy.’ ”
107
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“And the little swallow began to think, and then he fell asleep. Thinking always made him sleepy.”
108
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″ ‘I don’t think I like boys,’ answered the Swallow. ‘Last summer, when I was staying on the river, there were two rude boys, the miller’s sons, who were always throwing stones at me.’ ”

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